I'm finishing this post during the end of the 3rd quarter. If you want in-depth coverage of the 4th quarter, click here.
After two preseason matches where the passing game took a back seat to a stellar running game and the defense looked discombobulated, optimistic Titans fans came into tonight looking for some glimpses of the explosive plays this team was built to deliver.
After a slow first quarter, the Titans found a spark of life that would make Dr. Frankenstein quiver.
Here are some thoughts I had watching the game:
- We finally got to see all five starting offensive linemen, and we got to see the kind of impact they'll make this year. The run blocking was a clinic of power, timing and precision. The pass blocking was consistently stellar, allowing Jake to keep his eyes down field. Stewart, who is still coming back from his injury, got beaten badly on a few pass plays, but it's tough tell if it was his fault or if Chance missed a check call.
- The Titans are paying a lot of money to Chris Johnson and Shonn Greene, and it's going to be 100% worth it. Greene's skills on 3rd and short are legitimate, and CJ's newly-polished juke move is absolutely unstoppable in space. CJ might not get 2,000 yards, but he could easily average over 5.5 yards per carry with more of those 70-yard TDs this year if all goes well. I'll take that over 2K any year.
- Accordingly, as much as I love Greg Williams, Sylvester Croom might be the best addition to the coaching staff this season. You can see the difference he's made for CJ as a player, and as a person.
- Welcome back Big Kick Rob. He was 2-2 in the first half, capped by a 53-yarder on the last drive.
- Even with a decimated LB group right now, the Titans defense got the job done. Jurrell Casey and SSA Derrick Morgan (ed. note: Criminal Minds reference... best character on network TV, btw) are ready to dominate. If they keep up this pace, they'll give Luck and Schaub nightmares so serious they'll be wetting the bed on Saturday nights.
- Alterraun Verner had a demoralizing first half, but take it with a pinch of non-iodized sea salt: the refs called a bad PI penalty on good physical coverage against Julio Jones, then gave up a deep catch by playing off. Julio Jones is the exact kind of WR who can expose the holes in ATV's game, but you could say that about almost any no. 2 corner in the league.
- Tommie Campbell, finally, wasn't picked on at all. So he's got that going for him.
- Michael Griffin. Just had to write that because it was the first time you've heard/seen his name all night.
- To all the youngsters who are reading this: Jackie Battle could beat up your dad. He's a bad, bad man.
- Welcome to the Titans roster, Michael Preston.
- Schwenke got his first reps tonight, and it was pretty clear why the coaches love the guy: he's a rock at the point of attack, and actively seeks out someone to hit after he's beaten his guy.
- Tig Willard had a pick late in the game, so hopefully his Interstate heroics won't be the only reason he makes the practice squad.
The Titans still have a lot of work to do, but tonight you finally got a glimpse of the vision Webster, Munchak and the coaching staff have for this team. We still have two weeks for Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker, Akeem Ayers, Zach Brown and the like to get healthy.
Until then, it was so much fun to see these guys play with the kind of confidence in the system and their teammates that we haven't seen in a long time.
***Update! So I had to pass this gem of a story along that came up late in the local broadcast, courtesy of recent MCM Radio guest Jonathan Hutton: A few years back Ryan Fitzpatrick and Dave Ragone competed for a QB spot on the Rams, and they hated each other. Today, and Ragone is Fitzpatrick's QB coach, and they get along much better.